The Obama Administration’s new approach to Cuba has jolted Western Hemisphere leaders preparing for next week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. According to senior host nation officials, the Summit will be historic as the first time since the Eisenhower Administration that all hemispheric leaders will meet together at the same time. Coupled with a recovering US economy regaining attractiveness to regional partners, the Summit offers a tailor-made opportunity to find new ways to cooperate on energy, agriculture, technology and innovation.
Unfortunately, this scenario is at risk of being undermined needlessly by hemispheric reaction to the Obama Administration’s sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials and the declaration that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the US. Read more
Since Narendra Modi’s government has been in power, significant changes have been made to boost India’s economy and society. One major change was implementing the Indian Insurance Act, first proposed by the previous government.
The Act enables global reinsurers to enter as 100 per cent owned branches and increases overall foreign direct investment (FDI) in the insurance industry from the current limit of 26 per cent to 49 per cent. While there are many aspects of insurance, the most significant opportunity not only for insurers but also for Indian society, is the health insurance sector. Read more
By Rajeev Malik of CLSA
The general drift in the financial trenches is that Governor Raghuram Rajan of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will stay on hold at the bank’s April 7 policy meeting. After all, he just cut rates – in a second consecutive out-of-meeting action – in early March. What’s more, consumer price inflation moved up in February; this will constrain the RBI from easing. Finally, following the surprise rate cut in January, the RBI had stayed on hold at its February policy meeting; it will repeat this behaviour next month.
For these reasons, hardly anyone expects a rate cut next week. However, valid as these arguments are, they are overshadowed by factors that make a stronger case for another cut. Read more
By Andy Rothman, Matthews Asia
Will China’s real estate market crash? No, not in my opinion. China’s residential property market is significantly softer now. But I believe there is very little risk of a crash. House prices are stabilising in China, and are likely to rise again by the second half of this year on a year-over-year basis.
But keep in mind that because of the base effect, prices are likely to fall year-on-year at a steeper rate through much of the first half of this year, leading to a growing chorus of predictions of a housing crisis. Read more
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By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta
This week, St Petersburg hosted a bizarre gathering organized by the Rodina (Motherland) party of 150 European fascist and nationalist-populist political parties united in their opposition to the EU and US and in support of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine. Rodina is the loyal nationalist ally of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and consequently plays a similar role to the Radical Party’s alliance with the Serbian Socialist party. Read more
By Giancarlo Bruno and Michael Drexler of the World Economic Forum
Are emerging countries facing a corporate bond market bubble? That was the central question in a recent article in the FT, which cautioned that foreign investors are pouring too much money too quickly into emerging corporate bond markets.
Indeed, emerging market activity appears higher than ever before: hard currency emerging market bond issuance reached a record $480m last year, driven by global investors’ search for yield. Yet despite this influx of capital, companies in emerging countries often still have difficulty raising bond proceeds. Read more
By Arturo Porzecanski of American University
Recent moves, countermoves and judicial decisions have brought the government of Argentina perilously close to a checkmate situation. As a result, the endgame in the litigation saga pitting holdout investors against a “uniquely recalcitrant debtor” is now within sight. If the authorities in Buenos Aires were to set aside their confrontational rhetoric and do what is best for their own political survival, they would agree to a negotiated settlement sooner rather than later. Read more
By Mohammad Al Tuwaijri, HSBC
Over the last half century, the Middle East has been a cornerstone in South Korea’s rapid economic development, or what has become known as the ‘miracle on the Han river’ – a reference to the waterway that carves its way through Seoul.
Korean expertise in fields such as transportation, construction and technology can help the Middle East accelerate towards a future beyond oil. The relationship has deep historical roots. Read more
In a bid to promote its national pride and boost tourism, the previous Georgian government greeted travellers with a small bottle of wine. The present government briefly revived the practice over the past Christmas. But visitors may have reason to feel less welcome since Georgia adopted a new immigration law in September 2014. Read more
The decision of several European countries to join the China-inspired Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has created a widely believed narrative as follows. Beijing, frustrated by its exclusion from the centres of power in existing international economic institutions, creates its own. The accession of the UK to the bank, followed by (to date) five other European countries, is a powerful testament to China’s role as a rising hegemon.
This narrative is not wrong, but is far from the whole story. First, China’s decision to bypass multilateral institutions and go it alone with development lending was hardly forced on it. Second, Beijing’s willingness to allow western nations to join the AIIB is also an admission that its bilateral efforts have often not worked well. Read more
By Takashi Mitachi, Boston Consulting Group
The prize of a new World Trade Organisation (WTO) deal eluded negotiators in Bali at the end of 2013, collapsing over Indian concerns that the planned deal would endanger domestic grain subsidies that help feed India’s poor. In the meantime, there has been a surge of trade talks taking place across the world − some pan-regional, some regional, some bilateral.
Though these agreements may stimulate growth, they are likely to accelerate the multipolarisation of the world and even competition among regional blocs far beyond trade. Larger states are using trade as a geo-economic weapon to increase their dominance of their neighbours and promote their own national champions. And governments are rejecting the shared belief in a ‘win-win’ form of globalisation, where free trade and mutual interdependence bring peace and prosperity. Read more
By Pablo Cisilino, Stone Harbor Investment Partners
After two years of low returns and high volatility, investors are questioning the thesis that supports investing in local currency debt from emerging markets. Notwithstanding the current cyclical factors that, in the short term, seem to support the US dollar, we believe the main structural features that make most emerging markets and currencies an attractive investment destination are still in place.
Some of the most important factors include cleaner sovereign balance sheets and demographic profiles that favour younger workforces and growing populations. In our view, the re-pricing of the asset class over the last couple of years has created considerable value. Read more
By Joel Backaler, Author of “China Goes West”
On March 22, China National Chemical Corporation (CNCC) reached an agreement with the controlling shareholders of Italian tire-maker Pirelli to move forward with a €7bn takeover. If successful, the deal will be one of the largest overseas acquisitions of a European company by a Chinese firm to date.
While CNCC may not have the global recognition of Chinese firms such as Alibaba, Huawei and Lenovo, CNCC and its chairman, Ren Jianxin, are experienced international acquirers. Ren has acquired either directly, or via government driven consolidation, 107 domestic firms and four international businesses in France, Australia and Israel. Read more
By Noor Menai, CTBC Bank USA
In a thinly veiled admonishment, the White House recently accused the UK – our closest ally – of “a policy of constant accommodation” towards China. The parallel drawn to the historical appeasement of Germany by an apprehensive Europe was lost on no one, nor indeed the overwrought nature of the underlying concern.
The proximate cause of this spleen-venting was the surprise breaking of ranks by the UK to join as a founding shareholder the nascent China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB.) This initial $50bn fund has as its’ agenda the financing of overdue infrastructure in Asia. Read more
“Buy when there’s blood in the streets,” Baron Rothschild once famously said. Applying that wisdom to emerging markets, Gavin Serkin names Nigeria as the most promising emerging market for the next decade. Is he right?
Looking for “the best place in the world to put your money”, Serkin, Emerging Markets editor-at-large at Bloomberg, traveled to 10 preselected emerging markets. Armed with ‘excel spread sheets’ and taking along emerging markets investors such as Mark Mobius, he visited Kenya, Myanmar, Romania, Argentina, Vietnam, Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Ghana. The results of that emerging market Odyssey are in his book “Frontier”. Its conclusion is surprising: the world’s most promising emerging market is also one of the most violent. Read more
By Yoel Sano, Head of Political Risk, BMI Research
Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, a military confrontation between Russia and the West over the Baltic states is no longer unthinkable. Under what circumstances could this happen? How would such a conflict play out, and what might happen once such a war ended?
The notion of large-scale warfare in Europe – even without the nuclear dimension – would send shockwaves around the world, threatening to overturn the entire post-Cold War order. If the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) failed to defend the Baltics or were to lose against Russia, then Asia and the Middle East would also be destabilised, as doubts grew over the reliability of the US as an ally. This would usher in a much more unstable geopolitical climate, akin to the 1930s. Read more
By David Clark of the Russia Foundation
Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s finance minister, is in London this week to drum up support for her country’s ailing economy. It is badly needed. The physical destruction of property, the loss of production and the disruption to trade and finance caused by Russia’s military intervention mean that Ukraine has lost around a fifth of its economy in the last year. Forecasts that it will contract by a further 5.5 per cent this year are widely seen as optimistic. With the value of the hryvnia down by 70 per cent, inflation at around 35 per cent and foreign currency reserves running low, the IMF’s recently agreed $17.5bn support package already looks like a sticking plaster solution for an economy that needs a blood transfusion. Read more
By Gavin Bowring, Asean Confidential
With the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) gaining support from a growing number of global economic actors, one big question remains. Where will the bank itself be headquartered?
Beijing might seem the obvious choice. But given the political sensitivities surrounding the bank’s formation, it may seek to alleviate fears of Sinocentrism and opt for a neutral, regional destination. A similar calculation resulted in the decision by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – in which Japan is the largest shareholder – to pitch its regional headquarters in Manila. Read more
It would be hard to put it another way. Volodymyr Lavrenchuk, chairman of the board at Raiffeisen Bank Aval, the biggest foreign lender in Ukraine, describes the situation on the market there as “very complicated”.
With Ukraine in economic and political crisis, with Crimea annexed by Russia and a pro-Russian rebellion in the Donbas, state and corporate finances have been badly hit with predictable effects on the country’s banks. “What we are seeing is a set of dramatic events that is hard to encounter anywhere else,” Lavrenchuk tells beyondbrics. Read more
By Matthew Duhan, Global Counsel
Despite the economic and currency crisis engulfing Ukraine, by 7 o’clock in the evening the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) is virtually empty. But as the majority of its 12,000 employees head home, lights remain on in a few offices and footsteps echo through dark hallways as a small group of reform-minded individuals arrive for their unofficial night shift. To paraphrase the old line about the Indian economy, at the National Bank of Ukraine reform happens in the night while the government sleeps. Read more